John Anderson wrote a letter to the Dayton Herald which contains a few immensely valuable genealogical clues.
The context is this: General William Henry Harrison of Ohio was the Whig party candidate for President in 1836. (He lost to Democratic candidate Martin Van Buren but ran again and won the Presidency in 1840 only to die six months later.) He was known among some Democrats as “Granny Harrison, the Petticoat General” because he had objected to a posting and resigned from the Army in May 1814, nine months before the end of the War of 1812. During the 1836 campaign the story was told that the ladies of Chillicothe had intended to present him with a petticoat as a token of their disdain in when he visited that city after his resignation. Whether the Democratic women of Chillicothe had actually intended that mockery is uncertain, but there was a lively exchange of letters about it in the Dayton Herald when Harrison was nominated in 1836.
John Bigler, the editor of the Dayton Herald and a Van Buren supporter, had received an anonymous letter from “a friend to Harrison” challenging his newspaper’s assertion that a petticoat was to be presented to Harrison by the ladies of Chillicothe in 1814. The writer called the story “false as hell”. Bigler’s response was to publicly ask his friend John Anderson, who had lived in Chillicothe at the time, for proof of the incident. John Anderson’s response to Bigler’s request is reproduced below. All three letters were published together in the 23 April 1836 issue of the Dayton Herald.1
Dayton April 20 1836
In compliance with your request I submit to the public a true statement (as far as I am acquainted with the circumstance) in relation to certain ladies of Chillicothe having prepared a PETTICOAT TO PRESENT TO GEN. HARRISON at the time the sword was presented to the gallant Col. Croghan.2
I arrived at Chillicothe some time in the fall or winter of 1814 and distinctly and clearly recollect that the subject of the Petticoat at that time was all the town talk. The father and mother of my wife, Mr John Munday and Mrs. Mary Munday, now dead, informed me of the whole transactions. I also heard the particulars from Mrs Stephen Sissna, now old and blind and who resides in Highland county. These persons were old settlers of Chillicothe. Mr. Munday who had seen the petticoat informed me that it was of “many colors” and so stiffly quilted that it would nearly stand alone. Mr James Foster with whom I was employed for some length of time as a book binder had also seen the petticoat and one day when we were engaged stitching a pamphlet in relation to the surrender of Gen Hull3 he remarked to me that he wished he had a print of a petticoat and that if he had it he would put it in a frame so as to preserve it.
At Dr. Bassey’s tavern where I then boarded it was common talk almost every day the names of the ladies were mentioned; and I believe I now am able to give the names, if requested, of most of them. I mention these facts to show that they are of such a character that I could not forget or mistake them. In all the conversations I ever heard upon the subject, I never heard it denied whilst I resided in Chillicothe but I do recollect of hearing one if not more of the ladies husbands say that the petticoat would have been presented to the General had they not interfered. There are many citizens of Chillicothe who recollect the facts I have stated. There is one gentleman in the Ohio Delegation in Congress who I am well persuaded remembers the circumstance well. That the ladies prepared and intended presenting the petticoat is as undoubted a fact as that the sword was presented to Col Croghan. If any particular reference to the old citizens of Chillicothe will be of any service I will freely give the same.
The Chillicothe Advertiser reprinted John Anderson’s letter on 7 May 1836, with the following introduction:
…we publish a letter of John Anderson, esq, of Dayton… Mr. A is a highly respectable man — was last year mayor of the town of Dayton and is now a justice of the peace in that place.
- All the letters are reproduced in The Extra Globe, Vol. 6, No.3, (8 July 1840), page 69. [↩]
- George Croghan was famous at the time for his gallant defense of Fort Stephenson, Ohio from British attack. [↩]
- General William Hull surrendered Fort Detroit and its 2,500 men to the British on 16 August 1812 without a fight. He was later court-martialed for cowardice and dereliction of duty and sentenced to death. [↩]